Be warned: This is a constant work in progress. More books will be added as we read.

To submit your own reviews, you can: email me, meet with me or put a copy in my mailbox. As we increase the number of books in each category and add categories, we will create separate pages for each category so it's easier to view the entries.


This list represents some of my favorite books and movies I read, watched and listened to during the past several months. I am still adding to it! Underneath each novel description is a link to Amazon for more information. There is also a link to the author. These author links may take you to a video preview, a blog, an interactive author site, or just a plain webpage. Regardless, the author links have interesting information so visit them!

Why read?

Why travel? Why eat different foods? Why listen to different kinds of music? Why exercise? Why breathe?

Reading is one of the quickest, cheapest ways to expand your knowledge. We know reading is good for us. It is an active process that requires your brain to make conclusions, consider ideas, solve problems and use many more thinking cells than just watching TV.

Reading trains the brain to focus and pay attention. When you read novels, you are training your brain to focus for a longer period than if you just read emails, text messages or magazines.

Reading improves your memory. You must remember what is happening or the information you are reading about in the text. The brain is like a muscle that needs training. The more you practice, the stronger it gets.

Reading introduces you to new vocabulary, which helps with spelling and comprehension in other areas. If you read only easy books, however, you will not be challenged with new vocabulary. It's like lifting weights: If I keep lifting a twig, sure, it's easy, but is it really helping me get strong?

Reading can lead to more money. Yes, it's true! Research has found that students who read more, know more words. Students who know more words have better comprehension and writing. Students who have strong writing and comprehension skills, go to top colleges and have more options for careers. This all leads to better paying jobs.

While all those benefits are important, for me, I love reading because when you find the right book, you can travel to different places and different time periods without leaving home. I can become swallowed up by the story and peek in on the lives of the characters. I learn facts, opinions, topics, and ideas, which allow me to be more tolerant, understanding and appreciative. And I get to annoy my husband by leaving piles and piles of books around the house.

The KEY is the RIGHT BOOK!

Where to Find It!

See an interesting book? You can look several places: the TJHS media center and the C.Burr Artz library downtown. Also ask around: ask parents, teachers and friends. Also stop by my room 1107 because I have lots of these books already.

You can also check out the world's catalog! connects you to the collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. You can also create lists, bibliographies and reviews.
The World's Catalog

If You Liked That, Then Read This!

One of the hardest things to do after reading a great book is to find another just like it!

Try out this website for suggestions of similar books.

If Then Read

Keeping Track

Visit the one of the sites below if you want to create your own "mini-library" listing of books read, books you want to read, etc.Make sure you read the fine print, though, before signing up!


CATEGORIES (I am going to make these separate pages soon!)

Make additional selections!
Categories that going to be added:

Abusive Situations

burnedalivebetter.jpgBurned Alive

Souad is a Palestinian teen living in a country in which women are treated more poorly than animals. Her only salvation from the daily abuse levied by her father is to get married, and there is a young man who has expressed interest. But Souad must wait until her older sister is married, and there are no boys interested in her. Souad makes contact with her future husband, Faiez, although it is forbidden. Because her family is mortified, Souad's brother-in-law drenches her with gasoline and sets her on fire.

Souad. Burned Alive. Bantam Books, 2005.

Deathjaysonadoffspage.jpgThe Death of Jayson Porter

Jayson Porter is just trying to make it. Make it at school. Make it at work. Make it with his girl. But he can't stop his mother's constant physical and mental abuse. He thinks he has a plan to escape the pain, but the plan goes horribly wrong. He loses more than he ever had to begin with, and life seems darker than death.

Adoff, Jaime. The Death of Jason Porter. New York: Disney Book Group, 2008.


Does one son, treated so differently than the other, have the right to seek revenge on his father for years of physical abuse? A father’s rage, targeted at his youngest son, Enrique, forever shapes the family. Enrique struggles with his own anger over why he is the victim. The older brother battles feelings of inadequacy as he watches his father attack Enrique. The two brothers, along with their mother, must decide how and if they move forward to a healthier future.

Hernandez, David. Suckerpunch. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.

Boy-Girl Problems/Relationships

FlashBurnoutCover.jpgFlash Burnout

Blake unknowingly snaps a picture of his best friend's drug-addicted mother. This single snapshot sets in motion a series of events that force him to put his relationship with his girlfriend on the line. Blake must decide how far he will go to support his friend, who also happens to be a girl, without forgetting his love fro his girlfriend. Unfortunately, another photograph surfaces that creates more chaos.

Madigan, L.K. Flash Burnout. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 2009.

ifyoucomepublisher.jpgIf You Come Softly

Love is blind, but only to those who are in love. A bump in the high school hallway connects Jeremiah, an African-American, and Ellie, a Jewish girl who is white. First love can be tough enough without the added pressures created by an inter-racial relationship. Together, Jeremiah and Ellie see only each other, but unfortunately they can not avoid the tragedy brought about by stereotypes and racism.

Woodson, Jacqueline. If You Come Softly. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1998.

behindyoupublsiher.jpgBehind You

(Sequel to If You Come Softly)
When you die, what happens to those you love? What happens to you? This sequel to If You Come Softly follows the family and friends impacted by Jeremiah’s death. As Jeremiah tries to accept his own death, he watches how those he loved the most struggle with the questions of “How do I go on living?” and “What do I want my life to be?”

Woodson, Jacqueline. Behind You. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004.

November Blues

Draper, Sharon.
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Dysfunctional Family Issues and Personal Problems


Callie lives in the shadows of others: her constantly sick brother, her mother who obsessively shields him, and her emotionally mute father. No one seems to notice Callie until a school nurse sees the cuts on her arms. Sent to a treatment center, Callie refuses to discuss her home situation, relying on silence to protect her. But time is running out for her and her family.

McCormick, Patricia. Cut. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2002.


Diagnosis: Incurable disease. One year to live. No one knows but you and your doctor who must keep quiet because you are 18. You plan to live your senior year to the fullest without telling anyone. But then, is it really about you?

Crutcher, Chris. Deadline. New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2007.


Isolated from his conservative father and meek mother, 14-year-old Jaime runs away from the military boarding school he’s been sent to because of his shoplifting and pot smoking. While hiding out in Portland, he survives with several other young people on the streets. After finding out his older gay brother has cancer, Jaime travels across the country from Portland to Tennessee. The one constant throughout the journey is a notebook in which he records his experiences through rambling letters. Uncensored language, drug use, sexual experiences and questions about gender keep the story rolling as he interacts with many people along his mission.

Rapp, Adam. Punkzilla. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2009.

onewholeandperfect.jpgOne Whole and Perfect Day

Lily's grandfather threatens to take an axe to her deadbeat brother. Her mother constantly works, neglecting the real needs of her family. Lily is tired of worrying about her dysfunctional family. Through a series of "chance encounters," all characters are confronted with their problems and must decide how to put the pieces of their lives together.

Clarke, Judith. One Whole and Perfect Day. Asheville, NC: Boyds Mill Press Inc., 2006.


(graphic novel)stichesbigger.jpg

For David Small, the most monumental event of his teenage years was awakening from what he thought was a simple little operation and finding a huge, Frankenstein-ish wound running along his neck. Not only was he permanently scarred, but he could hardly speak above a whisper for 10 years. He uncovers the truth behind his operation and begins to learn many secrets that were kept hidden. In this graphic novel, the art strongly compliments the story of a sad and lonely existence in a family that considers David an afterthought, if at all.

Small, David. Stitches. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009.

33snowfishbig.jpg33 Snowfish

Custis, barely a tweener, runs away from his "bondage master" after hearing he may be used in a "Snuff" film. Traveling with two other main characters, Custis begins the story by describing teenager Boobie pouring Gatorade down his pants because he's got the clap. Having killed his parents, Boobie is also on the run. Then there's Curl, a 15-year-old prostitute and drug addict, who is trying to take care of a kidnapped baby they hope to sell for money.

Rapp, Adam. 33 Snowfish. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, Inc. 2006.



33 calls. Lia's ex-best friend friend called her 33 times before she killed herself in a motel room. But this is not so much the story of Cassie's suicide, but of Lia's battle with her own "killer" as anorexia torments her mind and and attacks her body.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. New York: Penguin Books, Ltd., 2009.


Freedom Writersfreedomwriters.jpg

Freshman English. New teacher. School overwhelmed with gangs. Repeaters hardened by the violent neighborhoods they live in. This movie tells the story of a first-year teacher and her determination to give her students hope, at any cost. Bitter enemies learn how much they have in common instead of how different they are through Gruwell's teaching methods. Although Gruwell must make many sacrifices herself, including working two extra jobs, she never abandons them.

(Yes, I am probably the only person who hadn't seen this movie until recently!)

Gruwell, Erin. Freedom Writers. Directors: Richard LaGravenese and Erin Gruwell. Hollywood: Paramount, 2007.

If I Grow Up


Guns. Drugs. Violence. Teen pregnancy. Poverty. Just another day at the Frederick Douglass housing project where teenager DeShawn struggles to beat the overwhelming odds. He is confronted every day with his environment, and his family and his friends, all who have made choices that end up in death or despair. It’s not a question of will he make a life-changing choice, but when he will make the choice.

Strasser, Todd. If I Grow Up. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009.


Junior Julia DiVino is surrounded by Bloods and Crips at her gang-infested Brooklyn High School. So far she has managed to maintain an A average and stay just clear of being pulled into either group. It's a dangerous dance between seeming like a hater and staying neutral, but she and her friend Q made a pact in middle school to never get involved with gangs or gang life. When Julia meets Eric, a new student, her interest in him makes her question her commitment to stay away from gangs. As she learns more and more about Eric's secrets and involvement, she wonders how far she must go to get out.

See what it says about Snitch on
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Van Diepen, Allison. Snitch. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2007.


Street Pharm

It's a tough choice: Carry on your dad's business or make your own way. This decision is even more challenging for 17-year-old Ty Johnson, whose father is the main drug dealer in town and has been sent to prison. As a younger teen, Ty only saw the money and respect his father's job brought, but as he struggles with the realities of the "job," he must face decisions that could result in life or death consequences for not only himself and his family, but also the girl he loves.

See what it says about Street Pharm on
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Van Diepen, Allison. Street Pharm. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2006.



(graphic novel)

As she pulls the dead body of Billy Glass up from the swampy Bayou, Lee, a young African American, sees the power of racism. Billy, who has a lynch around his neck, was killed for whistling at a white woman. Despite the segregation in Mississippi in the 19030s, she is friends with Lily, the daughter of a prominent white woman. She is warned against the friendship, but Lee feels sorry for Lily' abusive home life. One day, Lily turns up missing after going down to the Bayou. Lee’s father is immediately accused of the crime. Lee’s determination to save her father and Lily forces her to confront the brutal reality of the time period, which is also captured in the "boogie-men" who come out from the Bayou. This beautifully and hauntingly illustrated graphic novel offers a complex tale that mixes innocence, evilness, childhood monsters and real-life horrors.

Love, Jeremy. Bayou. Volume I. New York: D.C. Comics, 2009.

worsthardtime.jpgThe Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

(CD/Audio version)

This nonfiction novel is not just about the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression; it's a dramatic tragedy. Through first-person accounts, family histories and vivid details, the author tells the stories of those who experienced and lived through one of the nation's greatest natural disasters. He uses gripping words to tell the story of how man changed the land and then the land paid it back in tenfold, both in bounty and in pain. The narrator, Patrick Lawrence, reads each account using a variety of voices, giving life to each character.

There are many interesting anecdotes that show how difficult times were, and provide a historical perspective of the geographical area. Many startling facts are shared. In a time of drought, there were men cutting open buffalo and drinking whatever was in their stomachs. Dug-out homes flooded with centipedes, tarantulas, black widows and other swarms of creatures.

Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Narrator: Patrick Lawrence. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Media, Inc., 2006

yellowstarpublish.jpgYellow Star

Syvia was one of only 12 children who survived the horrific realities of living in a ghetto under Nazi rule. She spends about six years living in constant fear and often hidden in secrecy as the Nazis try to remove every single child in the Lotz ghetto. Her story, based on a true narrative, includes stark, clear descriptions as only a child could tell.

Roy, Jennifer. Yellow Star. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2006.

Life in High School

partimeindianpub.jpgThe Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian

From having an enormous head that earns him the nickname of “Orbit” to wearing glasses the size of plates, Native American teenager Arnold Spirit faces many obstacles. More challenging, however, is his life on the Indian reservation where no one is expected to achieve anything but a life of poverty and alcoholism. Arnold startles everyone with his decision to attend the rich, all-white high school 24 miles away. Leaving the reservation makes him an outcast in his community and an outcast in his new school. Arnold must test the strength of his determination to have a better life.

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.


You are walking in the hall in between classes minding your own business. You hear someone say she is going to beat up someone else. What do you do with this piece of information?
  1. Do share this gossip with your friends?
  2. Do you tell the victim, who has no clue?
  3. Do you say something to the aggressor, who is angry and large enough to pulverize anyone into a million pieces?
  4. Do you try and find out if the victim deserves to get beat up?
  5. Do you say something to a teacher or administrator?
Jumped revolves around a single day in high school and the issue of “snitching.” Find out what happens to three characters who play a part in a tragic situation. What would you do?

Williams Garcia, Rita. Jumped. New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2009.

keeshashouse.jpgKeesha's Houseexternal image moz-screenshot-5.png

Stephie is pregnant. Jason is the father, and could have a promising future in college.
Dontay lives with a foster family while his family is in prison.
Carmen sits in a juvie detention center after being arrested for driving while drunk.
Harris lives in his car after he told his father he was gay, and his father kicked him out.
Katie is on her own because he mother fails to acknowledge that her stepfather is abusing her.
Six teens tackle very some very difficult situations.

Frost, Helen. Keesha's House. Canada: Douglas & McIntrye, Ltd., 2005.

oneofthesurvsimonschust.jpgOne of the Survivors

When a fire strikes Village Park High School, 24 students in the same freshman history class are dead. But two teens survived. They knew to get out of the class ahead of time. Questions, accusations and anger close in around the two friends who struggle to share the truth.

Shaw, Susan. One of the Survivors. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009.


Teenager Capricorn Anderson has never set foot in a school, never watched television, never tasted pizza and never had a friend because he has lived on a secluded farm with his “hippie” grandmother and been homeschooled. He also never experienced the meanness of others who relish mocking those who are different. When Capricorn’s grandmother must stay in the hospital for two months, Capricorn must attend public school and live with a “modern” family.

Unaware, he instantly becomes a target at school. Who will get “schooled’ the most -- Capricorn or the students he meets?

Korman, Gordon. Schooled. New York: Disney Book Group, 2007.


The Sledding Hill

Eddie finds his father and best friend Billy dead within weeks of each other. Yeah, freshman year looks like it's going to suck, and
it gets even stranger when Billy tries to communicate with Eddie. As Eddie struggles with what he has lost, he begins to realize all that lies ahead of him as he engages in a battle that involves standing up for what's right even when everyone thinks he is wrong.

Crutcher, Chris. The Sledding Hill. New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2005.

13reasonsfrompublisher.jpgThirteen Reasons Why

“I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”

Hannah Baker killed herself two weeks ago, but her voice haunts Clay in the form of seven audio tapes he receives in the mail. Along with a map. Using the tapes and map, Clay uncovers the events that led to Hannah taking her own life. He realizes how powerful a first kiss, a single rumor and a simple joke can be.

Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Penguin Books, Ltd., 2007.

Making Decisions and Living with Consequences: Good and Badbang.jpgBang!

Mann may only be 13, but he knows first hand the explosive sound a gun makes and damage it does to human flesh. Mann watched as his younger brother was killed by a stray bullet. He lives surrounded by gang-bangers, drug dealers, and other people who have little value for life. When Mann starts getting in trouble himself, his father tries to save his son by taking him and his friend away from the "ghetto." Instead of staying with the boys, however, Mann's father leaves the them alone in a campground. He hopes that Mann will learn valuable lessons about surviving and becoming a man. But finding his way home turns out to be filled with many challenges, including some of the same dangers Mann's father hoped to avoid.

Flake, Sharon. Bang! New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.

Right Behind You


When Kip was 9, he killed his neighbor by setting him on fire. Kip spends four years in a mental institution before he is released. His family starts over in a new community, and Kip struggles with his secret past as he tries to build a new life. His conscience, however, becomes a monster that threatens to destroy everyone around him.

Giles, Gail. Right Behind You. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 2007.

canales.jpgThe Tequila Worm

All of the women in Sofia’s family get married and have babies before they even graduate high school. Sofia longs for something more in her life. But following her dreams means breaking many traditions of her Latino culture and leaving behind all that she knows. Sofia must find a balance between the world of her family and the world of the gringo as she seeks to conquer her fears while achieving her dreams.

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Canales, Viola. The Tequila Worm. New York: Random House, Inc., 2007.

Mysteries, Monsters and Mayhem

hungergame.jpgThe Hunger Games

In most reality TV shows, participants bicker, vote each other off, win money and prizes or simply live their lives. Reality TV in the future, however, is very different. The names of children who are between the ages 12 and 18 are put into a "lottery." Two children from each of the 12 districts are selected to compete against each other. The object? To kill everyone else in the competition and remain the last kid alive. The hunt and the killing are broadcast on TV for all to watch. But this year, the competition rules change and the participants are very clever.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2008.


The Monstrumologist

The revolting and mesmerizing descriptions of the Anthropophagi develop this Gothic horror story into one that must be read both quickly and slowly. Quickly to find out what happens as young Will Henry and the monstrumologist track down the pod of murderous monsters and yet slowly to relish the graphic images and actions of these creatures. From drilling into bones with needle-like teeth to the ripping, smacking, and flinging of limbs, the Anthropophagi present a challenge to the boy, the scientist and "specialist" called in to hunt the monsters. There are also questions that need to be answered, such as why were these monsters brought to this English-like town and who was responsible for introducing them into the community.

Yancy, Rick. The Monstrumologist. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009.



Teenage years can be tough, but in America, in the not-so-distant future, being a teenager can mean the end of your life. Abortion has been outlawed, however, “unwinding” has been developed. When children are between the ages of 13 and 17, their parents can decide to have them “unwound,” a process that involves harvesting all their organs to be used by others. This story follows three teens scheduled to be “unwound” and how they try to escape their fate.

Shusterman, Neil. Unwind. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2007.

whatIsaw40.jpgWhat I Saw and How I Lied

Evie, a 15-year-old teenager growing up in post-World War II, believes she will never be able to outshine her glamorous mother. During an "extended vacation" to Florida, she begins to realize, however, that the adults closest to her are not what they seem. This romantic mystery is filled with innocence, anguish and a final dilemma of who to betray: your heart or your family.

Blundell, Judy. What I Saw and How I Lied. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2008.



Planet B-Boy

The history of breakdancing and b-boy culture is woven into the stories of several young male crews from around the world as they prepare for the Battle of the Year championships in Europe. While the choreography is captivating and athleticism jaw-dropping, it's the backgrounds of the young men and revealing interviews with their families that emotionally connect to the viewer. Hip-hop and breakdancing becomes more about unit and compassion for other people and cultures than who has the best moves.

Lee, Benson. Planet B-Boy: Breakdancing Has Evolved. New York: Arts Alliance America, 2007.


Gym Candy

Mick Johnson’s father could have been an amazing professional football player, but he didn’t follow through. Now Mick, a promising high school football player, lives with the daily pressure of his father’s enormous expectations. Mick tries to do all the right things the right way, but it still doesn’t make him great. Desperate to be the best, he turns to illegal methods, which leads to a shocking ending.

Deuker, Carl. Gym Candy. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2007.


Chris thought he knew Winston pretty well after being best friends for ten years. But as he and Win bike across the country after graduating from high school, Chris uncovers more about his best friend Win that leaves him sad, confused, frustrated and at times angry. So when Win takes off unexpectedly, Chris finishes the journey alone, thinking Win took a detour to his uncle’s house. Then a private investigator stuns Chris by saying Win never showed up at his uncle’s, and in fact, Win doesn’t even have an uncle.

Bradbury, Jennifer. Shift. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.